Digital photo with no retouching. Toy: Marvel & Subs. © 2012, Hot Toys Limited © 2012.
Stage 3: RAW Image Settings
Always work in camera RAW so you have complete control over every nuance of color and tonal value with limitless levels of image control. Shooting a normal jpeg greatly diminishes your retouching options especially in terms of color balance and tonal levels.
Stage 4: The Exposure Triangle—ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed
These three camera settings form the exposure triangle and are the most creative tools in photography—not to mention the most complicated. My peeps at the mouse factory really helped me understand these settings. I certainly won’t do the subject justice here in this short post, but will at least detail the specific settings you’ll need for this step-by-step toy photography demo.
ISO comes from back in the day when we actually used film. Say what? Film? In today’s digital world, however, think of it as adjusting your camera’s eye to the surrounding light. You’ll use a higher number if you are shooting in the dark and a lower number when shooting in bright light. The photo will be grainier at the highest settings with little to no grain at the lower settings. I’m really simplifying this so if you are a big camera buff take a deep breath and slowly release. There now, isn’t that better? So, all you really need to know here is to set your ISO to the lowest setting for no grain.
Aperture controls the depth of field by setting the size of the opening that allows light into your camera. The larger the opening such as 2.8, your depth of field will be very shallow giving you a small area of sharpness with a blurry background—great for portraits by the way. If you want to act cool the name for that blurry area is called Bokeh.
A larger aperture like 22 gives you a very larger depth of field, which makes your entire image extremely sharp. Set your camera to the highest setting so your entire photo will be sharp enough to capture the fine details of the toy. Set it to a lower aperture if you want a fine art look with a fancy blurred background.
Shutter Speed is very easy to remember since it’s simply the speed in which light is allowed into the camera. The faster the shutter opens and closes the less light is let into the camera and the longer the shutter is opened the more light is allowed in.
So, in this specific application, a small aperture is used to make a tack sharp image requiring a very slow shutter speed to let in enough light. One would argue for a higher ISO but we do not want any grain and are using studio lighting and a tripod making a long shutter speed perfectly suited for our needs.
Do you see how all three settings work together? You can’t set one without affecting the other two. This is the exposure triangle—not to be confused with the Bermuda Triangle where my Uncle Louie told my Auntie Della he was trapped for a couple of weeks but in reality he was just on another bender in Miami—but I digress.
Stage 5: Final Image Adjustments
If you didn’t doze off and actually read the instructions in this article you won’t need to make many final adjustments because the white balance and lighting levels will already be spot on. This stage is primarily for minor tweaking and cropping out unwanted areas of the image.
Photos for printed media should be a bit lighter because of dot gain. In other words, the printing process usually makes the image darker so make them lighter. Also, save the photo as an RGB for all of your digital media presentations but save as CMYK for all print material.
Well, I certainly hope you give this process a try so all of your hard work in producing a wonderful toy design is picture perfect. This will increase the visual impact of your final product and hopefully showcase your talent and creative vision in the best possible light.